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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Herbal remedies: effects on clinical laboratory tests.

CONTEXT: Complementary and alternative medicine (herbal medicines) can affect laboratory test results by several mechanisms. OBJECTIVE: In this review, published reports on effects of herbal remedies on abnormal laboratory test results are summarized and commented on. DATA SOURCES: All published reports between 1980 and 2005 with the key words herbal remedies or alternative medicine and clinical laboratory test, clinical chemistry test, or drug-herb interaction were searched through Medline. The authors' own publications were also included. Important results were then synthesized. DATA SYNTHESIS: Falsely elevated or falsely lowered digoxin levels may be encountered in a patient taking digoxin and the Chinese medicine Chan Su or Dan Shen, owing to direct interference of a component of Chinese medicine with the antibody used in an immunoassay. St John's wort, a popular herbal antidepressant, increases clearance of many drugs, and abnormally low cyclosporine, digoxin, theophylline, or protease inhibitor concentrations may be observed in a patient taking any of these drugs in combination with St John's wort. Abnormal laboratory results may also be encountered owing to altered pathophysiology. Kava-kava, chaparral, and germander cause liver toxicity, and elevated alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, and bilirubin concentrations may be observed in a healthy individual taking such herbal products. An herbal product may be contaminated with a Western drug, and an unexpected drug level (such as phenytoin in a patient who never took phenytoin but took a Chinese herb) may confuse the laboratory staff and the clinician. CONCLUSIONS: Use of alternative medicines may significantly alter laboratory results, and communication among pathologists, clinical laboratory scientists, and physicians providing care to the patient is important in interpreting these results.[1]


  1. Herbal remedies: effects on clinical laboratory tests. Dasgupta, A., Bernard, D.W. Arch. Pathol. Lab. Med. (2006) [Pubmed]
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